ST. PAUL-A Republican effort to short-circuit the approval process for the Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota drew fire at a state House hearing.
"We have a series of checks and balances," Michele Naar of Duluth told the House jobs and energy committee Tuesday, March 27. "We have processes and we have requirements that are set up to protect the people and the land."
Naar and nearly two dozen other testifiers said they object to legislation by Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, to grant Enbridge permission to build the pipeline. The bill would take away the Public Utilities Commission's power to decide whether the pipeline should be built, a decision that could come in June.
"This is a process that has gone on a few years now," Fabian said in an interview, adding that northern Minnesotans want the pipeline built sooner rather than later.
Construction work on the pipeline, which would follow some of the same route the current Line 3 uses but also breaks new ground in other places, would bring economic development to rural northern Minnesota, Fabian said. "It's a big deal."
After construction, he added, some workers would be needed to maintain the pipeline and counties would receive added property taxes.
But even if the Republican-controlled Legislature approves the legislation, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he will plug it up.
Dayton said he opposes the bill on the grounds that it usurps the authority of the PUC.
When asked by a reporter Tuesday whether he thought it "crosses the line," Dayton responded: "It sure does. It crosses it. It tramples it."
Utility commissioners are appointed by governors and usually have the final decision on issues in their jurisdiction.
"Whoever was involved, I think was back in the '70s, in setting up the Public utilities Commission, had the foresight to understand that you need to separate these decisions from the political process-from the Legislature, from governors," Dayton said.
Fabian said he would go ahead with his bill, despite knowing it likely would receive a Dayton veto. He said his constituents in northwestern Minnesota want the pipeline and he needs to represent them.
"There are very few things they believe are more important than Line 3," the representative said.
Enbridge, a Canadian company, wants to build the pipeline from Canada to Superior, Wis. It would replace a line built in 1968 with one of a more modern design that could carry more oil.
While Line 3's environmental impacts have been examined, the same cannot be said about how the pipeline may affect American Indian lands. Many at the committee hearing told lawmakers that allowing construction of the pipeline could produce protests like occurred a couple of years ago at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in south central North Dakota.
Greg Boertje of Duluth was one of those who made the comparison. Despite Fabian's claim that northerners want the pipeline, Boertje said there is strong opposition there.
"I am concerned that fast-tracking this will lead to violence," said Shanai Matteson, who divides her time between Minneapolis and Aitkin County.
"Let's figure out how to make a civil society in the state of Minnesota that works for all of us," urged Winona LaDuke, one of the country's most famous natives and a White Earth Nation resident of western Minnesota.
However, the founder of Honor the Earth said, "you just try to shove it down our throats."
Nancy Beaulieu of the Leech Lake Band said the bill means "our voices are nothing" because there would be no formal report about how Line 3 could affect native lands and people.
Many testified that Minnesota lawmakers need to vote based on how the line would affect Minnesotans, not a Canadian company.
"What is in the best interest of Enbridge is not what is in the best interest of Minnesota," Mary Dylkowski of Stacy said.